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Urinary Retention in Men

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What is urinary retention?

Urinary retention is a condition that develops when your bladder does not empty completely when you urinate.

Male Reproductive System

What causes urinary retention?

  • An enlarged prostate
  • Blockages, such as a stone, growth, or narrowing of your urethra
  • A weak bladder muscle
  • Nerve damage from diabetes, stroke, or spinal cord injury
  • Bladder diverticula, which are pockets of urine that form in your bladder and do not empty
  • Certain medicines, such as narcotics, antihistamines, or antidepressants

What are the signs and symptoms of urinary retention?

  • Frequent urination, or the urge to urinate right after you finish
  • An urge to urinate, but your urine does not come out or dribbles out slowly and weakly
  • Frequent urine leaks that happen during the day or while you sleep
  • Pain or pressure when you urinate
  • Pain or stiffness in your abdomen, lower back, hips, or upper thighs
  • Blood in your urine

How is urinary retention diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your health history and the medicines you take. He will press or tap on your lower abdomen. You may need any of the following tests:

  • A digital rectal exam is when healthcare providers carefully feel the size of your prostate.
  • A post void residual test will show how much urine is left in your bladder after you urinate. You will be asked to urinate and then healthcare providers will use a small ultrasound machine to check how much urine is left in your bladder.
  • Blood or urine tests may show infection or prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. PSA may be elevated in prostate cancer.
  • An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures on a monitor. An ultrasound may be done to show bladder stones, infection, or other problems.
  • A CT scan , or CAT scan, is a type of x-ray that is taken of your prostate, kidneys, and bladder. The pictures may show what is causing your urinary retention. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How is urinary retention treated?

  • A Foley catheter is a tube put into your bladder to drain urine into a bag. Keep the bag below your waist. This will prevent urine from flowing back into your bladder and causing an infection or other problems. Also, keep the tube free of kinks so the urine will drain properly. Do not pull on the catheter. This can cause pain and bleeding, and may cause the catheter to come out.
  • Medicines can help decrease the size of your prostate, fight infection, and help you urinate more easily.
  • Surgery may be needed to treat the condition that is causing your urinary retention.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have pain when you urinate.
  • You have blood in your urine.
  • You have problems with your catheter.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have severe abdominal pain.
  • You are breathing faster than usual.
  • Your heartbeat is faster than usual.
  • Your face, hands, feet, or ankles are swollen.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.